I was in Buford last week working with a new Home Dog Training client and his twenty-month-old Bernedoodle named Goose. Although Goose was a pretty good dog, he still had some issues we needed to address. For one thing, he never listened to my clients. Goose also loved to take stuff off of the table as they were sitting down for dinner. He also “never met a person he didn’t want to jump on”.
These were all common behavioral issues for Bernedoodles and we were able to quickly fix them. We them proceeded to address Goose’s ability to calmly and respectfully go on a fun walk with my client. Although many people assume that a calm and respectful walk means that your dog is always directly by your side, we focused on the rules my client would maintain while he and Goose were out and about. We received some excellent results. My client was now excited and looking forward to putting what he had just learned into practice going forward.
I finished up the lesson, said my “goodbyes’, and headed out to my car in the driveway. As I was about to get in my car, a neighbor from across the street approached. She was watching us walking Goose and was impressed at how well Goose was behaving. She told me that she had been a little intimidated of Goose as well as most other large dogs. This was because she had been bitten by a neighbor’s dog when she was quite young. She wanted to overcome this fear and asked me how to avoid being bitten or attacked by dogs now and in the future.
I started off by telling her that just about all dog bites and dog attacks can be easily avoided.
Unfortunately, most media stories of dog attacks on people — especially children — focus on the injuries the “mean dog” inflicted. They never go into the detail of what caused the encounter and proper avoidance. Over the years, Robin and I have come to understand that most dog bites are completely preventable and often, unknowingly, caused by the human.
People often receive dog bites because they misread the dog’s intentions or incorrectly react when the dog approaches. A dog’s eyesight is worse than ours. Because of this, they must approach and get very close to something to assess the situation. For us, think of looking at something through a dense fog.
When a dog observes something pass by his yard, he will probably bark and growl. This will communicate his dominance. Next, he will often run towards the object. This demonstrates active dominance and control. When the dog gets close enough to the object to clearly identify it and determine its intentions, he will make his final decision regarding the object. Is it friend or foe? (happy or bite)
Here is where our problem often begins. Instead of pausing and allowing the dog to sniff us, we think the dog is trying to get close to bite us. We respond by kicking at the dog or trying to run off. These actions will naturally place us in the “foe category” and the dog will act accordingly (bite).
The best way to prevent an attack by a dog you see running at you is to remain calm, face him, and stand completely still. Whatever you do, don’t move a muscle. If you try to run away from the dog, it challenges him to chase you. This will also increase the dog’s adrenaline level and anxiety. If you try to kick (lunge towards) the dog, he will interpret this as an aggressive and hostile act. He will also reply, in kind, with an aggressive and hostile act (bite you).
When put in this situation, it is often a bad idea “to make friends with the dog”. Stooping down low and trying to pet the dog often sends confusing signals to the dog. As mentioned earlier, simply standing tall and calm is your best option. This will provide the dog with a “picture image” that you are dominant but offer no threat.
Even though you may be standing absolutely still, you may still be giving off a sense of apprehension or fear. Dogs can sense these things. To them, they are signs of weakness. When you have told them you are weak, it gives them “the upper hand”. Being in charge, they may try to subserviate you through aggression.
I know this sounds crazy, but you must constantly be thinking “I am in charge, I am in control, I will be fine.” This will inherently calm you down and create the proper body language to send to the dog.
Always face the dog. If the dog is “thinking about becoming more aggressive”, he will look for the most appropriate moment to engage. Your rear side is your weak side and that is where the dog will always want to engage and attack. If the dog starts to circle you, slowly turn so that you are always facing him. If you are very close to a fence, wall, or other large obstruction, back up to that so that there is no possibility of the dog getting behind you.
Some dogs are extremely food motivated. Carry some doggy treats around with you if you are in an area where there may be “questionable dogs”. If a dog inappropriately approaches you, you may avoid being bitten by tossing the food on the ground while remaining still. You should throw the food so that it is about six to ten feet in front of him. You also need to do this while the dog is far enough away to see the food and stop to investigate and eat it. As the dog is eating the food, slowly back away while continually facing the dog.
If you are struck to the ground by a dog DO NOT TRY TO GET BACK UP. LIE COMPLETELY STILL, ROLL YOURSELF UP INTO A FETAL POSITION AND STAY THERE. The dog is looking for a victory, and if you keep trying to get back up, it will only result in the dog trying to pull you back down, resulting in lots of dog bites and a trip to the emergency room.
The one thing you must remember when approached by an aggressive dog is to stay still and calm. This will send the appropriate body language to the dog so that the situation will not escalate. It allows you to “have your wits about you” so you can make the “best next decision”.
Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years. We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and excellent families and are ready to help you.